The IU cross-country teams sent a message to the rest of the Big Ten on Saturday at the inaugural Sam Bell Invitational in Bloomington: nobody runs at their home course without a hard-fought battle.
Not only did IU’s opponents arrive at the IU Championship Cross-Country Course to the voice of IU basketball announcer Chuck Crabb, but they were also met by impressive performances from both IU’s men’s and women’s teams.
In the event named after the legendary former IU track and field coach Sam Bell, the No. 27 IU men’s team finished first overall with a team score of 38.
The next closest team was 28th-ranked Columbia with 70 points, while the University of Guelph out of Canada finished third with 84 points.
Meanwhile, the 14th-ranked IU women’s team finished second overall with a score of 47, just 10 points behind No. 4 Michigan. Columbia was third in the women’s race with 52 points.
With the Big Ten Cross-Country Championships being held in Bloomington this season, the rest of the Big Ten will be taking notice, as IU has proven it should not be taken lightly based off its performances so far.
“We know this course better than anyone else,” sophomore Ben Veatch said. “This course is complex because of the hills and the footing, but that’s what makes it hard and makes us stronger. We’re definitely going to take that knowledge into the Big Ten Championships.”
Veatch was the top finisher for the men’s team in the 8K race in third place with a time of 24:40.62. Sophomore Kyle Mau finished fourth, freshman Cooper Williams finished sixth, junior Kyle Burks finished eighth and junior Joe Murphy finished 17th to round out the scoring for IU.
Mau, Williams, Burks and Murphy were all scored in higher positions than they actually finished because of unattached runners finishing in fourth and 16th, respectively. Unattached runners are not allowed to qualify for the final scores.
With four runners finishing in the top 10 by using the grouping strategy that Coach Ron Helmer has preached all season, the men’s team gave one of its best performances of the season.
“We’re better as a team when we are running together and using one another’s energy to help each other along,” Helmer said. “That’s a really positive trait to have late in the season. Today, I thought their execution of that was really good.”
In the women’s 6K, reigning All-American junior Katherine Receveur was dominant for IU as she finished first overall with ease, running a time of 20:14.08. Junior Maggie Allen was not far behind, finishing fifth overall with a time of 20:54.15 and junior Brenna Calder ran her way to a 7th-place finish. Junior Haley Harris (16th) and sophomore Lexa Barrott (18th) rounded out IU's top five.
Even though they weren’t quite able to catch Michigan, finishing just 10 points behind was a momentum builder for the women’s team.
“I think it meant a lot to us that we were able to go out there and compete with a team like Michigan,” Receveur said. “It means a lot since we’re hosting Big Tens this year. Our course is tough but we’re just going to be tougher from running on it.”
For Helmer, he said it was the women’s team’s toughness that stood out to him from Saturday. The women running hard in the first race of the day was a nice start to an all-around impressive day from the program.
"As a whole, our times were great but we have to remember we had ideal conditions and the course was in great shape today,” Helmer said. “Every time we have a performance like this it makes us believe even more that we belong in the rankings and we belong in the national championships.”
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